Crazy Rich Asians director Jon Chu readily admits that Kevin Kwan (author of the book the movie is based on) did not make it easy for his crew to find the ideal Nick Young, the film’s Hollywood-handsome male lead. But British-Malaysian actor Henry Golding swooped in, checked all the boxes, and stole the show playing Singapore’s most eligible bachelor.
“Within any ethnicity, finding a movie star is so difficult because that has such a weight to it as well,” Chu told CASSIUS. “There’s also the change in masculinity, this idea of the old Hollywood gentleman, which Henry is. He’s not lifting weights and doing all this stuff, he’s the ultimate gentleman, he’s like Carey Grant.”
CASSIUS chatted with the star of what might be summer 2018’s hottest rom-com about his character, Asian male representation, and what this movie means for so many people. Check it out below.
CASSIUS: Tell us a little about Nick Young.
Henry Golding: Nick is an interesting character. He also has this huge backstory when it comes to his family in Singapore, but essentially he never wanted to be weighed down or defined by who his parents are or how much money they have. He kind of went off into the world to travel, find love, and kind of make himself into his own man.
C: So much of Nick’s struggle comes from finding a happy medium between his Asian-American girlfriend, Rachel, and his traditional Chinese family, especially his mother, Eleanor. Why do you think it’s important to show that a balance can exist between what your family wants and what you want?
HG: It takes a while to get there. It takes a lot of tears, but what shines through is the love—the love for family, the love for your girlfriend, but it’s also about finding that respect so you have to sort of finding the comfy balance with that. The issue for Eleanor and Rachel was sort of about chasing one’s passion or staying with tradition. It’s such a modern versus old day mentality when you could have the comfort of both. You can chase your dreams and be successful in whatever you want to do. But I think it’s also about dedicating a good portion of time to be at home and play up that family role.
No matter how insane or crazy, especially in terms of Nick’s family, there are always people who will love and support you. His cousin Astrid is such a rock for Nick and so is his best friend, Colin. There are so many good people that outweigh the bad. I think tradition is so important for cultures, that’s why I think the older generation is scared that they’re going to be lost. Sometimes putting too much pressure does the adverse effect, it pushes people away. In both parties, you gotta find the happy medium.
Tradition is so important for cultures, that’s why the older generation is scared that they’re going to be lost.
C: If you could get any aspect of Nick’s life for your own, what would you take?
HG: Having a place like Tyersall Park to be your family home would be so badass. Bring the kids over, play in the gardens. Something with so much history as well, it’s almost like a museum for the family. Each generation keeps adding a little bit. Keeping family ties strong. It becomes sort of a symbol of the Young throne, but also at the same time, it’s a place where the family gets together and makes dumplings. They have those really warm moments that we see between Eleanor and Nick where you realize what drives Eleanor to be so feisty. She just loves her son and wants to protect him.
C: For so long we haven’t been able to see Asian men portrayed as handsome, sexy leads in film and TV. How does it feel to be breaking that barrier as Nick Young?
HG: It’s about time. It’s so sad it’s even gotten to that stage. It’s also the opportunities that weren’t given in the past. We were never able to show that Asian men can be sexy in roles. There’s only a handful of people doing that in roles, you know, like Jon Cho, Danny Bae, Jason Scott Lee, you can name countless Asian actors or men have had roles but haven’t had studio support. You need the studios to be like these guys have it going on; sometimes that makes all the difference.
C: What do you hope the Asian fans of the movie take away from it?
HG: Just go see it for the pure enjoyment of being taken away to this beautiful country that you may have never been able to experience. Be enthralled by this beautiful story, this love story between Rachel and Nick, crack up at the hilarious comedians we have—there’s literally something for everyone. Go because you want to support Asians, go for wanting an insight for new cultures, go because you just sheerly love cinema and you want to be told a story.